When people talk about the solitary life of the writer, they are usually referring to the writing process itself, the hours spent in front of the keyboard giving voice to thought, creating a book from a jumble of words in an author’s head. But there is so much more that goes into writing a book than the actual process typing the words, so much more to being a writer than just writing and it too is an often solitary endeavor. Solitary in that, often only the writer knows she is working, even if she is surrounded by people.
Many of you know I am currently traveling abroad. I’m writing this blog post while staying with my niece and her Navy husband in Sicily. We’ll be leaving for Barcelona tomorrow for a few days and then taking a cruise of the Mediterranean after that. Easy to misconstrue this trip as a holiday isn’t it? Even my own PR Coordinator and Admin has done so. And yet I’ve been working full time more days than not with some wonderful excursions for research in between. A wonderful mentor told me back in the day that authors don’t go on holiday, we go on research trips.
The truth is, that we do take our deadlines, our writing, our need to refill the creative well and research whatever area we are visiting with us wherever we go, whatever our reason for being there. But this trip was planned as a working “holiday”. Because of my Seasonal Affected Disorder, the onset of shorter and grayer days is always a huge challenge for me, lowering my productivity and clouding my brain along with bringing on the worst symptoms of my agoraphobia. So, this year, we planned a trip to a sunnier climate in hopes of putting off those symptoms longer (and hopefully with the help of my new therapist, diminishing them to the point of full management). It was never my intention for this to be a vacation. I knew I would be writing (without a lot of my normal distractions) over here, as well as answering emails, and handling whatever extra stuff arose. Which is what has been happening.
It has been going great! I’m getting lots of writing done, lots of research done and well, no I’m not thrilled about the extra stuff I’ve had to handle, but it’s part of life of a small business person. But then comes the solitary life of a writer. No one sees you working. You do most of it on a computer in places that look cool to other people, like at your niece’s dining table in Sicily, and there’s this assumption you’re not working. It must be nice! Right? Why don’t you post more pictures? Isn’t your vacation going great?
My trip has been a huge success, but it’s not a vacation and maybe I’m wrong for needing the recognition for the fact that it’s not a vacation. I’m not sleeping in every morning. The only time I’ve had to post my albums of pictures to FB has been when my dumb phone company woke me in the middle of the night and I was up so I spent two hours doing that. Yes, we are getting a wonderful visit in. yes, we are seeing incredible sights and experiencing wonderful authentic bits of Sicilian life. And yes, I’m coming home with new story ideas. I’m also coming home with several thousand words written on two books. Woo hoo!!!
Despite the sunshine (probably because of the shorter days), I’m struggling a bit with my agoraphobia. It hasn’t gotten in the way of anything yet and I don’t think the kids have even noticed, not even Tom. I’ve done a good job of hiding it, but the anxiety is there and the relief when I don’t have to leave the house because the boys can run errands is immense. I’ll tell my therapist when I get home. I think she’ll be disappointed. She wants my agoraphobia to be something I talk myself into. I wish it was.
Back to the solitary life of writing. I used to post how many pages I’d written, or how many thousand words. I stopped because I realized it stressed me out. I felt like readers began to expect a certain level of productivity. They (and other authors) took for granted a certain pace, only some days, some scenes, the words just didn’t come that fast. Only I was just as proud of the work I’d done that day. Only in this results driven society it never came off the same. I couldn’t say, I wrote this really great 500 word scene and get the same response to I wrote 5,000 words today. You know?
So, I don’t share, but then I’m all alone and don’t share my progress at all. It’s safer emotionally that way for me, but way more isolated. And leaves the people around me with the idea I’m not working. It’s not their fault because I’ve even asked my children not to ask how my writing is going. (For so long it wasn’t going at all and being asked was like having acid poured over that wound.)
The thing is, I don’t ask how much my husband has done at work, but I know he worked all day. It’s a given. He’s working part-time over here as well, putting in half days for the first two weeks. I wonder if everyone assumes he’s strictly on vacation too, or they remember he’s working too? Does it matter?
I think maybe I need to figure out why it matters to me.